Member of Parliament for North Tongu says the country’s foreign missions are playing hide and seek with their landlords because of their inability to pay rent.
According to Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, this is because the Finance Ministry is starving the foreign missions of funds they need to operate.
“The Foreign Ministry has suffered a lot of cuts. If you look at the original budget they presented to the Ministry of Finance, a whopping GH₵171m has been taken out of their budgets.”
He added that “even the paltry sums that have been approved”, the Ministry of Finance is refusing to release the money for the Foreign Ministry and their officials to work.
Mr Ablakwa explained the refusal to release funds for the Foreign Ministry, is affecting their productivity.
He told JoyNews’ Kwesi Parker-Wilson that, diplomats have complained adding that “when we engage with them they tell us that they owe so much in rent, utility and they virtually have to be running away from landlords; it does not do our image any good as a country.”
According to Mr Ablakwa, he is concerned the Ministry of Finance is not prioritising the affairs of the Foreign Affairs Ministry nor is it taking seriously their financial needs as is required of them.
The MP stated that the Foreign Affairs Ministry is in charge of executing many of Ghana’s investment drives, however, the current state of many of these foreign missions could drive away potential investors.
“It is important for the president [Nana Akufo-Addo] himself who is a former Foreign Minister, to step in and ensure that there are no continuous cuts,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey
Addressing the challenge
Reacting to Mr Ablakwa’s statement the Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey admitted that some foreign missions indeed owe their landlords but steps are being taken to address the challenge.
She said the country is aiming to acquire properties in states like Geneva (which has some UN institutions ) and Addis Ababa (where AU has its headquarters).
“Unlike most ministries, out of our goods and services, we pay rent and utilities…We all know how these releases delay. As a result when these delays occur in our releases then we have problems. If you are in the cold and you’re thrown out or your utility is cut off this can be very, very terrible,” she stated.
Mrs Botchwey said her ministry has secured a loan that is being disbursed towards purchases, renovations and construction of facilities in some countries to help ease the problem.